How to Clean a Paint Brush With Mineral Spirits

Learn how to keep your brushes clean and usable longer with a few simple cleaning tips

Author: Charles J Zank Category: life
Updated on:

Starting a home painting project is a fascinating task! We are full of expectations and positive emotions about the upcoming changes in our decor and interior, and we usually don’t think about how we are going to clean up after ourselves. However, if you use paint, you should know how to clean brushes correctly. Otherwise, you are putting them at risk of being damaged.

Today we will tell you how to clean a paintbrush with mineral spirits. You will learn what cleaning solutions can be used to remove different kinds of paint from your paintbrushes. In particular, we will explain what to use to wash off oil paint, shells, and water-based paints and stain. And in addition, you will learn what tools should be used for cleaning your brushes. All this will help you keep your painting tools usable longer.

Color palette, tray for brushes

How to Clean Paint Brushes With Mineral Spirits 

If you are not experienced in painting, you may not be aware that not any kind of paint can be just washed off with only water and soap. Water-based paints are usually easier to remove from brushes and surfaces since they are not very durable. But what if you need to use oil-based paint? Or shellac? Those will require a different approach and distinct methods.

Below we have prepared several mini guides about cleaning a paintbrush with mineral spirits. In particular, we will explain what tools you will need and what steps to take in order to clean your brushes from oil paints, shellac, and water-based stain.

paint stained brushes

How to Clean Oil-Based Paint From Your Brushes

To begin with, you should always keep in mind that oil-based paint is very durable and it is also rather hard to wash off your brushes. This kind of paint has an oily and thick texture and you will need more than just soapy water to deal with it! 

That's where knowing how to clean a paint brush with mineral spirits becomes invaluable.  Oil-based paints require strong paint-dissolving products that can break the bonds within the paint and make it loose.

To start your cleaning mission, get all the tools ready first.

  1. Newspaper (or piece of scrap paper)
  2. Brush Comb or wire brush
  3. Solvent
  4. Three-quart containers
  5. Brush spinner
  6. Rag

Then, after you are finished with your painting project, you will have to take a few easy steps. They are all described below. Just make sure you do everything precisely according to the instruction!

First of all, you need to take your quart container and fill it with paint thinner. Pour enough liquid so that it covers the brush ferrules when you immerse brushes into the tank. Your task is simple: no need to wash your brushes, just let them sit in a container overnight and let the thinner do its job! 

How to do it exactly? After you fill the container with the paint thinner, do the following:

  • Wrap the brush/brushes in a newspaper or a sheet of scrap paper
  • Put a rubber band over them to keep the paper in place
  • Place the wrapped brushes in a container filled with paint thinner to soak overnight

After a day of soaking, prepare another two quart-size buckets of paint thinner, and get ready for the manual brush cleaning process. 

  • Remove the paper from your brushes
  • Re-dip them into the container they were soaking in
  • Place the brushes down on a rag and stroke the bristles from the ferrule to the brush tips using the wire brush
  • Repeat this process two or three times in each quart bucket

The trick is that each time you dip your paintbrushes and work on them with a wire brush, their bristles get cleaner and cleaner. Finally, finish removing the oil paint from your brushes by spinning the brush.

How to Remove Water-Based Paint and Stain From Your Paintbrushes

If you need to clean any water-based paint off your brushes, using ordinary water is your go-to choice. See, the rule of thumb is very simple: any water-based paint be it latex paint or alkyd enamel paint, as well as water-based stains, should and can be cleaned with water. The process is very simple and won’t take you much time:

  • Wipe off as much of the excess paint as possible with a clean rag
  • Run the paintbrush under water so that the flow runs down the handle and the bristles
  • With your fingers, massage the bristles to loosen the paint and let it run down the sink as you do it (you might want to put on gloves here to protect your skin)
  • To allow extra water to flow better, separate the bristles at the base of the handle with a comb
  • If the paint is a bit dry and won’t go, feel free to add a few drops of dish soap to loosen it
  • When you see there is no paint left between the bristles, use a dry rag to absorb extra moisture
  • Finish the process by allowing the brush to air dry

What to Do to Remove Shellac From Your Paintbrushes

If you prefer using shellac as a finish coating, you might have faced a common issue: how to remove the dried shellac from your bristle brush? Basically, for paintbrushes with  dried shellac on their bristles, you should do the following: 

  • Soak the brush in a cup of denatured alcohol in a well-ventilated space. You can do it with a brush that has either wet or dry shellac on its bristles
  • Soak, stir and then comb the bristles to remove the shellac buildup
  • Continue to soak and comb your brush until it gets clean

If your brush is covered with dried-on shellac, it can be useful to wash it in mineral spirits and then wash it with soapy water once all product has been removed.

Now you know how to clean your paintbrushes if they were used for painting with oil-based paints, water-based paints or stain, or for applying shellac coating. As you can see now, each kind of paint or stain requires a distinct approach and tools, as well as cleaning methods. But now you know precisely what to do to not only remove the paint buildup but also keep your brush usable and its bristles clean.

How to Maintain Your Brushes After Use 

In order to use your paintbrushes longer and keep them in a decent condition, it’s not enough to just wash them correctly depending on the type of paint you apply with them. Proper storage and after-use care are equally essential too!

What do most of us do after we use brushes? We wash them, dry them, and stick them into a can with the bristles up until the next use. But is it all we need to do? Below we have collected a few handy tips that will allow you to store your brushes like a professional artist or painter!

  • Clean the brush immediately after use
  • If you’re taking breaks between paintings, clean the brush between painting sessions. Even if you will use the same paint after that
  • Wash the base of the bristles (that’s the area near the ferrule)
  • Never store your brushes vertically in the water or any kind of cleaning solvent! It will easily bend the bristles, twisting them forever
  • Don’t leave your brushes soaked in water for too long! Water can get into the base of the bristles and loosen the glue holding them.  As a result, the bristles will fall out
  • Store clean brushes vertically, head-side up, or horizontally
  • Make sure the bristles of your brush are dry before storing it away

With these simple recommendations, you will be able to extend your brushes’ lifespan quite significantly and keep their bristles well-working and of proper shape.

How Do You Keep Paint Brushes Soft? Secret Revealed!

If you are an active painter, you know that with time, the bristles of any brush will harden more or less, even the natural hair ones. However, this makes your future painting projects more difficult to handle! This is why grab a few useful suggestions and life hacks on how to keep those bristles soft longer. These tips can be used either for fixing the hardened bristles or for preventing them from hardening. 

  • For hardened bristles, boil your brush in vinegar. Place it in a saucepan filled with vinegar and boil for a few minutes or until the bristles start moving again
  • Try to scrape off excess paint using a metal spatula after boiling brushes in vinegar. The bristles of your brush may harden because of paint residue stuck deep between the bristles
  • Boil your brushes again if your brushes need it
  • After you remove all the paint from your brush by boiling it, rub conditioner through the bristles
  • Place all brushes in plastic bags and immerse the bags in hot water. It will help the conditioner to get into the bristles easily. Leave them like that for an hour
  • Rinse the brushes

<H2> What Types Of Paintbrushes There Are

The choice of paintbrushes is really wide these days. You can buy natural bristle brushes made of real hair, or you may opt for synthetic alternatives. Some brushes are cheaper whilst others are more expensive. Of course, there is no wonder people often get lost among all this variety of choices and options!

So here is a quick comparison and explanation for you. It will help you get a better idea of the basic distinctions your brushes have. As a result, you will know how to clean them to not damage the bristles, and how to store them properly.

Natural Bristle Brushes

Natural bristle brushes are pricier because their bristles are made of animal hair, such as that of a hog. And the price seems to be the only disadvantage of them since the pros are way more significant:

  • They can be used on different surfaces and textures
  • They are water-resistant
  • You can use them with most paints
  • Their bristles hold the paint effectively
  • They offer smooth application

<H3> Synthetic Brushes

Synthetic brushes are often less expensive than their natural counterparts, but they have their specific features and complications. Synthetic paint brushes have bristles made of polyester, nylon, or a mixture of the two which makes people think they are easy to clean. 

However, It can be rather hard to clean these brushes, particularly if you are working with acrylic paints. The major trouble with synthetic brushes is that their bristles can break down or dissolve when you clean them with certain cleaning solutions!

On the other hand, their benefits are way more attractive:

  • You can use them for different paint products
  • They are simple to use
  • They work on surfaces of all materials and textures
  • They are durable
  • They don’t lose bristles

Well, we have told you all handy life hacks and useful tips that experienced painters know that help them keep their brushes looking like new. Now you know how to remove different types of paint and stain from your bristle paintbrushes, and what to do in order to keep them soft longer. Also, now you possess the secrets of long-lasting brushes that will help you use your painting tools longer, keeping them in decent condition. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Natural Bristle Brushes And Faux Bristle Ones Have To Be Cleaned The Same Way?

No, they don’t. Natural bristle brushes should not be cleaned in soap and water. Use only the solvent recommended for cleaning.

What Solvents Can Be Used To Clean Paintbrushes?

Depending on the paint type, you can use water, denatured alcohol, or paint thinner.

What Shall I Use To Remove Varnish From My Brushes?

To remove varnishes, opt for mineral spirits. They’ll work the best!

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